Crime & Justice

Courts, trials and crime coverage for Austin and the Central Texas region.

Ben Philpott for KUT News

The president of Austin’s police officers union said that incidents like the fatal officer-involved shooting of unarmed teenager David Joseph last week stem from chronic understaffing within the department.


Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon for KUT News

A local law firm is suing Austin police officers involved in an incident on Sixth Street downtown early in the morning of Nov. 6, 2015. The lawsuit [in full here] claims that officers used excessive force and singled out and arrested two African-Americans for jaywalking, a misdemeanor offense.

Shelby Knowles/Texas Tribune

The Texas Forensic Science Commission on Friday recommended that prosecutors temporarily stop using bite-mark evidence in criminal cases until questions are answered about its scientific validity.

A panel of the commission has been investigating the reliability of bite-mark evidence following several exonerations across the country in criminal cases where convictions were won partly with bite-mark analysis. One primary concern is "the ability of human skin to record bite marks with sufficient fidelity" to be of use for future analysis, commission general counsel Lynn Garcia reported to the group.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon for KUT News

APD Chief Art Acevedo said the police department's investigation into the fatal shooting by an officer of an unarmed black teenager will be completed within 30 days. Officer Geoffrey Freeman shot 17-year-old David Joseph, who was naked and reportedly behaving erratically, on Monday. Joseph is said to have charged at Freeman, who then discharged his weapon.

Nathan Bernier for KUT News

The identities of the police officer and the subject involved in Monday’s deadly officer-involved shooting were released Tuesday afternoon. The officer was more-than-ten-year department veteran Geoffrey Freeman. The subject who was fatally shot in the incident was identified as 17-year-old David Joseph.

Joseph was unarmed at the time of the incident, said Austin Police Chief of Staff Officer Brian Manley. When asked why it took more than a day to determine and report whether the subject had been armed, Manley responded:

Nathan Bernier for KUT News

Austin Police are investigating the deadly shooting of a man by an APD officer. It happened Monday morning in North Austin after what police say were multiple reports of a man behaving suspiciously and aggressively.

A Texas grand jury on Monday declined to indict anyone in connection with the July arrest and subsequent death of Sandra Bland.

Bland, 28, was pulled over by police in Waller County, Texas, in July for failing to signal a lane change. A confrontation between Bland and the officers followed. She was arrested and taken to the county jail, where three days later she was found dead in her cell.

The death penalty is in decline no matter the measure, a new study released by the Death Penalty Information Center has found.

The report found that 28 people were executed this year, the lowest since 1991. The number of death sentences dropped by 33 percent.

Only six states executed convicts during the year, and Texas, Missouri and Georgia accounted for 86 percent of the executions.

Jason Farrar via flickr

Right now, if your loved one calls you from Travis County Jail, it will cost you $4.65. The calls are limited to 20 minutes, but the fee is flat whether the call lasts the entire 20 minutes, or 20 seconds.

But Travis County officials have voted to lower that flat fee by more than 60 percent. And that means the County will lose the money it usually makes from those calls.

From the Austin Monitor

The Travis County Sheriff’s Office is working towards reinstating face-to-face visits for inmates at its local jails.

Yesterday County Commissioners received an update on their progress.


America's death penalty is under scrutiny after a series of botched executions, drug mix-ups and difficulty acquiring lethal injection drugs. Just last month, President Obama called certain parts of capital punishment "deeply troubling."

Some say long waits and repeated last-minute delays are tantamount to torture.

flickr.com/home_of_chaos

District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg announced last week that hundreds of criminal cases in Travis County could be subject to appeal because of a change in DNA standards. Initially estimated in the hundreds, the number of cases has begun to look much higher, with anywhere from 4,000 to 5,000 cases that may be up for appeal.


Kathryn Decker from flickr

Austin City Council will soon decide whether to require employers to remove a box from initial job applications that asks applicants if they’ve been convicted of a crime. They call it "banning the box."

Texas Tribune

More than a few Texans are part of a new bipartisan coalition of more than 100 law enforcement officials meeting in Washington to talk about one thing: reducing the number of people in prison.

H. Michael Karshis/flickr

From Texas Standard: Between October 30 and November 2 of this year, about 6,000 federal prisoners from across the country will be released.


Image via 4chan.org

From Texas Standard:

Papers across Texas and across the nation led the news with information on the carnage in Oregon Thursday at Umpqua Community College. Ten people were reported dead, including the 26-year-old shooter.

Investigators are now looking into an online conversation before the shooting took place. Someone wrote: "Don't go to school tomorrow if you are in the northwest."

But it's yet to be determined if the web post was made by the shooter, or if it was just an eerie coincidence. Either way, it didn't seem to set off alarms, raise flags or lead to a call to the authorities. Instead, it garnered plenty of responses like this:

"Do it."

"Become legendary."

"I suggest you enter a classroom and tell people that you will take them as hostages. Make everyone get in one corner and then open fire."

These comments and the original post appeared on 4chan.

KUT News

The new City of Austin budget includes money for the Austin Police Department to outfit its officers with body cameras. The City Council Public Safety committee held a meeting last night to begin figuring out the best ways to use those cameras.

Image via Pixabay/WerbeFabrik (CC0 1.0)

From Texas Standard:

There is an execution scheduled for Wednesday in Oklahoma – but Texas is tied to the case.

According to a court filing, the lawyer for an Oklahoma death row inmate is claiming that his client shouldn't have to use an alternative to pentobarbital, one of the chemicals in the lethal injection cocktail. The filing argues that Texas is compounding its own pentobarbital and has sold the lethal injection drug to at least one other death penalty state: Virginia.


Image via Flickr/Beverly Yuen Thompson (CC BY-NC 2.0)

From Texas Standard: Last year 43 people – all students at a teachers college – disappeared during a school trip. How much closer are we to knowing what actually happened?


Image via Flickr/Paul Townsend (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

From Texas Standard:

It's been 121 days since the so-called biker gang shootout in Waco. Despite nine deaths and a mass arrest of 177 people – each held for days or weeks on $1 million bonds – there have been exactly zero formal charges brought against anyone. Nor has any evidence been offered to support the arrests. And there's been no word whatsoever on whether (or when) cases might be presented to a grand jury, which is currently led by a Waco police detective.


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